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Full text of "My Country And My People"

88       MY COUNTRY AND MY PEOPLE

helping the * "water element/' and the indigestion is usually
cured. If a man is suffering from nervous trouble, he should
drink a lot of water and use palliatives, so that the "kidney-
water53 will go up and dampen a little of the "liver-fire" and
thus help maintain in him a more equable temper. There is
no doubt that Chinese medicine works: the quarrel is only
with its diagnosis.

Here enter the survivals of savage traits in Chinese thinking.
Unchecked by a scientific method, "intuition'* has free room
and often borders on a naive imagination. Some kinds of
Chinese medicine are based on a mere play of words or on
some fantastic association of thought. The toad who has a
wrinkled skin is used in the cure of skin troubles, and a peculiar
kind of frog that lives in cool, deep ponds on hillsides is supposed
to have a "cooling" effect on the bodily system. For the last
two years the local papers in Shanghai have been full of
advertisements of a certain "lung-shaped plant" which is
produced in Szechuen and recommended as the best cure for
tuberculosis. And this goes on in an uninterrupted series until
we come to the popular belief that a schoolboy should not eat
chicken's claws lest he develop the habit of scratching the
pages of his book.

The superstitious belief in the power of words may be traced
in all departments of life, for here we are dealing neither with
logic nor with common sense, but with a survival of the
savage state of mind which does not distinguish, and is not
interested in distinguishing playful fancy from serious truth.
The bat and the deer are popular motives for embroidery
work because the word "bat" (fu) is a homonym for "luck"
and the word "deer" (hi) is a homonym for "official power."
The Chinese bride and bridegroom have, after the wedding
ceremony, a dinner A deux consisting of a pig's heart, because
they are thus going to have "the same heart," which is the
word for "harmony."

It is difficult to say how much of it is serious belief and how
much of it mere light playful fancy. Certain taboos are evidently
taken quite seriously, for the boatman will look troubled when
you turn over the fish at dinner in the boat, which suggests
the "overturning" of tiie boat itself. He does not quite know